UNION BRIDGE — Momentum is building for a referendum to give residents a voice on the annexation of the Phillips property.
Although the Town Council voted unanimously Monday to annex the 110-acre site north of town, residents could still have the final say. Referendum organizers have 45days to collect signatures from 20 percent of the town's 455 registered voters.
"No problem; we have already done most of the homework," said SamHostetter.
Hostetter, who owns a business and property here, organized an informal poll of town residents on April 18. Results, which were delivered to Mayor Perry L. Jones Jr., showed a majority of the 115 surveyed were opposed to annexing the land, which could be developed into 400 homesites.
"If the council truly represented people here, they would not have voted 'yes' on this," said Hostetter. "When we did the survey, I told people if council passed the annexation, I would be back knocking on their doors, asking for signatures for the referendum."
Michael Harris, 38, a lifelong resident who said he doesn't usually get involved in issues, was pulled into the controversy by the amount of opposition. He joined seven others in polling his neighbors.
"I never heard of anyone in favor of this issue," he said. "The poll helped prove that, and a referendum will prove it again."
Monique Lessard, another resident who worked on the survey, said she plans to help with the referendum. She and her family moved here six months ago "to escape the big city," and she wants to help Union Bridge keep its small-town character.
Before Monday's vote, Councilwoman Bonnie M. Hyde said she thinks the town will have to annex the property eventually and would rather do so now, when the town can exercise control over construction.
"We could be faced with another Bowman Springs," she said, referring to when the water supply was curtailed to the 29 homes recently annexed to town.
Hyde also pointed out a possible benefit.
"There are instances where a town's taxrate has gone down after new development increased its tax base," she said. "Right now, our tax base isn't going anywhere. We just spent three nights hammering out a budget with the same revenue we had lastyear."
Jones said he would welcome a referendum as an opportunityto support the council's position.
"A referendum gives another option. If the council had voted 'no' on this, we would have had to go back to the beginning," he said. "I think the majority of people actually want to see the town in control of this development."
If enough signatures are gathered, the town must advertise the referendum twice and schedule it within 90 days. If a majority votes in favor of the proposal, it will take effect within 15 days of the vote.